By Daniel Viles
Bond University has good reason to believe that, after two Grand Final losses in three years, 2022 will be the year when they can finally call themselves Premiers.
The Bull Sharks have won the last three minor premierships only to be beaten in the finals by whichever Brisbane-based club had the strongest group of returning AFLW players.
While is expected that the majority of AFLW players will be unavailable for the 2022 Bond University QAFLW season, Bond Uni coach Luke Mansbridge is confident that his squad can take on any team with or without their star players.
“We’ve always backed ourselves with our depth, so we’re quite comfortable if it goes either way,” he said.
“Last year, we were confident that even with the AFLW girls coming back that we’d be playing off for silverware at least. We’re always striving to get to that point and we’ll back ourselves again this year.”
Bond University themselves have had many players drafted into the national league which led to a perception that too many players pulled on the Bond jersey only to get a SUNS or Lions jersey. According to Mansbridge, that attitude is consigned to the past.
“We’ve made a conscious effort to really change our culture, and that’s had a massive impact,” he said.
“We still want to be seen as a good pathway into the AFLW but, if you look at our leaders from last year, players like Shannon Danckert and Lulu Pullar wanted to get on a list but they did it in a way that wasn’t going to be detrimental to the club. As a team, having Shannon and Lulu as two keys, our culture just went through the roof.
“Our cultural motto is: Honour the Guernsey. The girls are well aware that when they pull that Bond Bull Sharks guernsey on, that’s who they’re playing for.”
Since joining the Bond University QAFLW in 2018, Bond’s defence has conceded just 30.8 points per match, the lowest of any side in the competition. Take out their debut season and that figure drops to 26.5.
There will, however, be some rebuilding to do in the back third with halfback Lulu Pullar now entrenched at the Brisbane Lions, Giselle Davies returning to Southport, and the retirement of Taneille Wilshire.
Again, Mansbridge believes that the Bull Sharks have the talent to create another strong defence.
“Jess Maher is amazing with her drive out of the backline; Krystal Scott is the same with her drive out of halfback,” he said.
“Paris Lightfoot was unlucky last year; she was only pushed out because we had quite a few AFLW girls there, but she would make most teams as a halfback flanker or a centre halfback. It’s almost like we’ve got a new recruit with Paris this year.”
Other backline options include Mitzi Adamson and Charli Dorrity who have played in Victoria’s Under 18 NAB League with the GWV Rebels and Bendigo Pioneers respectively. Ahlani Eddy provides speed out of defence after playing mostly on the ball at Coolangatta, while Piper Phelan impressed at halfback for Bond in her debut season in 2021.
Further forward, Cairns’ skilful Cockatoo-Motlap twins, Laquioiya and Litonya, will be seen again in the Bond University QAFLW after making a handful of appearances for Coolangatta last year. Similarly, half-forward Imogen Evans impressed during a tough year for Coolangatta and should get more opportunities at The Canal. Prolific goalscorer Esther Boles returns to Bond after a season in the QFAW with Burleigh.
QAFLW Premierships: nil
2021: Grand Finalists (14 wins, 3 losses, 116 goals scored, 71 goals conceded)
Coach: Luke Mansbridge
Mitzi Adamson (GWV Rebels, Vic)
Abbey Bevan (Broadbeach)
Grace Bradley (Broadbeach)
Esther Boles (Burleigh)
Laquioiya Cockatoo-Motlap (Cairns City / Coolangatta)
Litonya Cockatoo-Motlap (Cairns City / Coolangatta)
Charli Dorrity (Bendigo Pioneers, Vic)
Ahlani Eddy (Coolangatta)
Imogen Evans (Coolangatta)
Mardi Hornby (Mackay Hawks)
Bella Iverach (Broadbeach)
Kaylee Kimber (Moranbah)
Ruby Sargent-Wilson (Sydney Swans Academy)
Jasmyn Smith (Broadbeach)
Annise Bradfield (Southport)
Giselle Davies (Southport)
Laura Ernst (University of Qld)
Ellie Herron (NSW)
Jordann Hickey (SA)
Alessia Smythe (Southport)
Ella Stuart (Victoria)
Taneille Wilshire (retired)
THREE PLAYERS YOU SHOULD WATCH
Scott was the outstanding specialist centre halfback of the 2021 Bond University QAFLW and arguably the unluckiest omission from the Team of the Year. The former tennis player has the physical strength and size needed to anchor a defence, but also the skills to turn defence into attack either by feeding the wide defenders or breaking through the middle of the park.
Mansbridge says: “Scotty’s drive out of halfback gives us real stability.”
Muir is one of the quickest players in the competition, so it’s unsurprising that she has played most of her career on the wing. However, she showed her versatility early in the 2021 season with a series of intelligent displays in the back pocket. With Shannon Danckert likely to be unavailable for the QAFLW season, it’s possible that Muir may assume not only her on-ball role, but also the captaincy.
Mansbridge says: “Annie is really fit this year. I’m expecting a brilliant year from her.”
Halfway through the final quarter of the Preliminary Final with Bond trailing Maroochydore by two, Hutton slipped away from her opponent, took a handball from Lucy Single, ran ten metres into space, and then put a long kick inside 50 that allowed Taylor Smith to score the go-ahead goal. Hutton did that sort of thing a lot last year. Very little of what she did was spectacular, but most of it was precise and effective.
Mansbridge says: “Georgia will continue to play on the wing, we could also probably push her onto the halfback flank.”
WHY YOU SHOULD GO SEE BOND UNIVERSITY PLAY
In amongst all the talk about whether Bond Uni will win a flag or how many of their players will get drafted, it’s often forgotten that they play very entertaining football. Speedy athletes occupy every part of the field, their transitions and switches are rapid, and they’re not above the odd tactical surprise either, such as using 161cm Mikayla Pauga as a free-roaming centre half-forward to pull the opposition defence out of shape. They may not have a premiership yet, but they have found their own style and identity, which makes for great viewing and may just be the key to the ultimate success.